Ty Segall – First Taste

The prolific Ty Segall returns with First Taste, his first album in a while with a unified sonic vision

Album Review by Tony Inglis | 02 Aug 2019
  • Ty Segall – First Taste
Album title: First Taste
Artist: Ty Segall
Label: Drag City
Release date: 2 Aug

It's unusual to have to wait past the halfway point of the year for a new Ty Segall record. Ok, fine, we did get a live album, one that captured not who Segall is as an artist now – basically a chameleon capable of extreme productivity – but a kind of career-spanning greatest hits of what he could do live. First Taste is the first record of new material in his name this year, and while it doesn’t fully offer the uncharted sounds suggested by its title, it tastes delicious nonetheless.

In 2014, Segall’s Manipulator seemed like a summing up of albums like Goodbye Bread, Twins and Sleeper – works that dealt in psych-rock and folk. Last year’s Freedom’s Goblin saw Segall come again to a point in need of a full stop. This time it was a showcase of the myriad styles he’d begun to explore – sludgy disco, brassy funk, Hot Chocolate covers. In between those were a self-titled record and Emotional Mugger, which were solid, strange, and yet incidental works in his ever-expanding catalogue. If that run was bookended by records for us, it was filled in by records for him, to be playful, to feed his inner prankster.

In the video for Taste, this new album’s first track, Segall murders his Freedom Band. It’s a funny metaphor, even if it does bludgeon you over the head (much as Mikal Cronin is bludgeoned in the video) – this is a new start. First Taste is not an expending of creative experimentation in the way Freedom’s Goblin was, and it is most certainly a record made for himself. Crucially though, it is compact, conceptually concise and a vision clearly told.

Three aspects, or three instruments, set it apart: percussion, wind and voice. The album opens with a drum solo; Taste is Segall’s most rhythmically indebted, danceable song. Segall is no stranger to a kit. In fact, in bands like Fuzz, it’s where he takes up position. These duties are shared across First Taste by Segall and long-time collaborator Charles Moothart. When the rest of the band kick in, it’s natural to expect garage guitars – this is a Ty Segall record after all – but those that are present are eventually overwhelmed in the mix by Segall’s extra-terrestrial wail, multiplied by overdubs into an army that has a brass band to match.

All three get their time to begin with, before each is deconstructed in its own way. Ice Plant is Segall’s most stripped back composition. After hushed snare hits and what sounds like falling ice cubes, the song hones in on a cooing soft-rock choir and Segall’s voice alone: 'Let your love rain down on me'. Piano fades us out.

Later, on songs like I Worship the Dog (which sees Segall’s vocal turn creepily playful), he brings in horns, Japanese kotos, Greek bouzoukis, recorders, even kazoos. Strings aren’t left by the wayside – lovely use of mandolin on The Arms and I Sing Them are paired with flutes and whistles.

The penultimate Self Esteem – an equal parts sinister and groovy full-on jazz freakout – is the best and most ambitious song here. It's a signifier of how brilliantly Segall has worked to create a unified sonic vision, something especially admirable considering his tendency to push out records that, while always great and never undercooked, can often be scattershot. If last year marked the end of a decade since his self-titled debut, and First Taste signifies the beginning of a new era of Ty Segall, it’s going to be an exciting one.

Listen to: Taste, I Sing Them, Self Esteem